The best way to do this is by regularly checking weather forecasts, then, if bad weather is expected, the Environment Agency offer up-to-date warnings for areas at risk of flooding.

These are available on their website and Twitter feed and are divided into three categories:

  • Yellow = Flooding is possible. Be aware.
  • Orange = Flooding is expected. Be prepared.
  • Red = Severe flooding. Danger to life.

In addition to its live flood risk maps, the Environment Agency provides an online postcode search for England and Wales, enabling you to find out if the area where you live is at risk from flooding.

If you live in an area with a high flood risk you will want to protect your home and belongings as much as possible to limit the damage and costs you might incur.

Investing in external door guards on the ground floor will prevent dirty flood water from entering your home and damaging your furniture and possessions. Flood boards can be made for any door and are easily slid into place above the doorstep and sealed on either side, to prevent water getting through during flash flooding.

Normal ventilation bricks, which are usually made from clay, can be replaced easily by plastic air bricks that automatically self-seal if flood water tries to penetrate your property.

You may also wish to consider raising your power sockets above ground level and away from any flood water.

For more information about flooding you can call the Government Floodline on 0345 988 1188.

Plan ahead

Even if you don’t live near a river or sea it’s sensible to take precautions. Flooding can often be caused by surface run-off water during heavy rainfall, for example due to a blocked drain or rising water tables.

What you can do if flooding or storms are forecast

  • Outside your home

    If you have specialist flooding protection such as flood boards, make sure these are fitted to external doors. Laying sandbags at entry points such as gates or doorways will also help prevent water from entering, especially if used in conjunction with plastic sheeting. Sandbags may be available from your local council, so it’s best to check in advance. The National Flood Forum produce a booklet called ‘Ready for Flooding’, which is available on their website.

    Take care of the trees. Contact your local authority to see if any trees are protected first, but remove any loose or overhanging branches from trees that could cause damage.

    If you know a storm’s coming, it’s worth putting your car in a garage or somewhere safe, or if flooding is expected, move it to higher ground.

    Secure or lock away loose objects in outside spaces like garden furniture, bikes, ladders and children’s toys.

    If you have loose roof tiles, aerials or satellite dishes, get these secured before the storm hits (as long as it’s safe to do so). Most insurers will expect you to keep your home in a good state of repair for your policy to remain valid. Clear out your gutters to stop rainwater overflowing and damaging plaster work.

    Make sure all your gates and fences are in good condition. If your fence blows away, you don’t want it to cause damage to any other parts of your property (or anyone else’s).

  • Inside your home

    Fasten all your doors and windows securely and turn off gas, electricity and water supplies at the mains.

    Store your valuables somewhere safe by moving them upstairs or asking someone else to look after them for you. Check your insurance policy before you do this however, as you’ll need to be certain it still covers those items if they’re not in your home.

    Keep important documents in a watertight plastic bag in a high, safe place. You might even decide to give them to family or friends to look after.

    Take as much furniture and as many electrical items as possible upstairs, away from the water. Any items that are too heavy to carry, get some help to raise them up on bricks and move them away from walls as this will speed up drying times later.

    Make a flood kit. Include important items such as:

    • Key personal documents, plus useful numbers such as the emergency services, local council and your insurer
    • Torch and spare batteries
    • Mobile phone and charger
    • Waterproof clothing and warm blankets
    • Rubber gloves and wellies
    • First aid kit (including any important medication)
    • Emergency cash and credit cards
    • Bottled water

    Be a good neighbour and make sure everyone knows there is a flood on the way – especially those who are elderly or infirm.

  • Stay safe during and after a flood

    You can get up-to-date flood warnings and advice from the Environment Agency on 0345 988 1188 or on their website. In most situations where flooding is imminent you will be evacuated to temporary shelter or you may choose to make alternative arrangements. Always follow the advice of the emergency services and if you find you have to remain in your property, plan to move upstairs in good time.

And remember…

  • Avoid walking, swimming or driving through floodwater as it may be contaminated by untreated sewage and debris. Standing water and mud may also hide potential hazards such as uncovered manholes, drains and other obstacles.
  • Wear rubber boots and gloves in and around your property and avoid contact with floodwater as far as possible - if you are cut, consult a doctor to determine whether a tetanus booster is necessary.
  • Ensure that you have a supply of bottled water as drinking contaminated water can be hazardous, especially to young children.
  • As the flooding recedes and once it’s safe to do so, remove any standing water by sweeping or using towels. This can reduce damage to floors and walls and aid the drying process.
  • To aid ventilation keep windows and doors open on dry days and when it’s safe to do so.
  • Do not turn on any electrics, gas or water supplies that might have been damaged or contaminated, unless they’ve been checked by a qualified professional first.
  • In the event of flood damage, ring your insurance company and register your claim. Take photos of all your possessions and one of the marks on the wall that the flood water has left. Your insurer will advise you on what to do next.